Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Olympics Previews: Sports You Never See Except in the Olympics

Once again, I'm teaming up with my buddy Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog to put together previews of the Olympic Games. The Games kick off on July 27 in London, so over the next week we'll be giving yinz the rundown on what you need to know in preparation for the greatest international competition in existence. We also have Adam dropping some knowledge on us about athletes and teams you can expect to see on the medal stand. Since there are 31 different events in the Summer Games, we've condensed them down and combined them so we don't have to write 31 different posts. Today, I'll be looking at Equestrian, Field Hockey, Handball, and Water Polo.


You like the Kentucky Derby? Was the triple crown race this year exhilarating until I'll Have Another dropped out of the Belmont? Good for you. Equestrian is nothing like that. Yes, there are horses, but that's about it. There are 3 events in Equestrian - Dressage, Jumping, and Eventing. Since the Olympics are in England I'm using the Oxford comma. Deal with it.

Dressage is basically walking a horse around and making it look good. If you can't figure out what Jumping is you should probably stop reading now. Eventing is the Triathlon of Equestrian events. It involves Dressage, Eventing, and Cross Country which is basically like riding your horse through an Old West town where there is crap all over the ground for it to jump over and possible ponds/streams to wade through.

Competition Format: There are Individual and Team events for each of the 3 categories.

How We Might Fare: Was your country once part of the British Empire? If not, do you have a buttload of money? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, chances are you'll be good at Equestrian Events. In Beijing Germany, the US, Canada, and the Netherlands all won Golds in Equestrian with Germany winning 5 of the 18 medals. The US won a gold in Team Jumping, silver in Individual Eventing, and bronze in Individual Jumping.

Field Hockey

There's really nothing about this event that says "Field" or "Hockey." It's played indoors on a hard surface with the players running around. It's basically High School Gym Hockey with everyone using sticks with the blades broken off.

Competition Format: There are two groups of 6 with the top 2 in each group qualifying for a bracketed tournament. Both Men's and Women's events.

How We Might Fare: To call this "Hockey" is an insult to anyone from the North American continent. Argentina is the only team from the Western Hemisphere in the Men's competition. The United States Women's team did qualify. The US women finished 4th in their group in Beijing. I guess the qualifier to be good at Field Hockey is to not be good at actual hockey, as Germany, Spain, and Australia medaled in the Men's competition in Beijing and the Netherlands, China, and Argentina medaled in the Women's tournament.


Never heard of Handball? It's because the US hasn't qualified a team in either the Men's or Women's competition since 1996 when we hosted the Games. Handball is basically a combination of soccer and basketball.

Competition Format: Two groups of 6 teams with the top 4 from each group qualifying for the bracket stage.

How We Might Fare? The US didn't qualify once again. Apparently we can only handle so many deviations on soccer.

Does it snow in your country? A lot? Then chances are, you'll be good at Handball. In Beijing France beat Iceland in the Men's Championship and Norway beat Russia in the women's. Iceland is apparently pretty good at this game. Maybe after the disaster at the Junior Goodwill Games when they got embarrassed by a team wearing purple and teal they decided to give up hockey and switch to handball. No confirmation on if Wolf Stansson is their coach.

Water Polo

Once upon a time someone had the brilliant idea to try to combine hockey and soccer and play it in a pool. On the surface the game is pretty simple - try to score goals while not being able to stand or touch the bottom of the pool.

Competition Format: Men's Tournament has 2 groups of 6 with the top 4 in each group advancing to an 8-team bracket. The Women's Tournament has 2 groups of 4 with everyone advancing into an 8-team bracket.

Defending Champions: Hungary (Men's), Netherlands (Women's)

How We Might Fare: The US took Silver in both the Men's and Women's competitions in Beijing. The Men are in a stacked Group B that features all 3 medalists from the Beijing games. The Netherlands women's team did not qualify but the US women will have to navigate through a group that includes Hungary (4th place in Beijing, won Group Play) and China (5th place Beijing, all 3 losses by only 1 goal). Looking at the tournament, the only conclusion one can make is that small Eastern European countries have nothing better to do than be good at Water Polo (Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, and Greece are all competing). Man, the Ottoman Empire would've been awesome at Water Polo.

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